LOS ANGELES, Apr. 26 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline project should be implemented on schedule but moved away from Lake Baikal for ecological reasons.
His announcement contradicted a statement by the president of OAO Transneft that the pipeline would pass close to the lake's northern shore (OGJ Online, Apr. 25, 2006).
Agreeing with the Transneft chief that construction should proceed on schedule, Putin declared, "If there is even a negligible grain of danger of Baikal contamination, we, thinking about generations to come, must do everything in order not to simply minimize but exclude it."
Putin said the pipeline's route should be moved more than 40 km to the north of the lake, well beyond Baikal's drainage area.
He said the work should begin from both ends of the pipeline and that, as construction converges toward Baikal, "all the documents must be developed, [and] the needed prospecting completed so that the work in the Baikal area can be continued."
Transneft Pres. Semyon Vainshtok called Putin's decision to change the route for ecological reasons "totally unexpected" and said, "We were totally convinced that the route we proposed, which was much shorter, was totally safe."
Vainshtok said Putin's decision will fundamentally change the economics of the project in ways that are hard to estimate.
"I cannot say by how many kilometers the pipeline will be lengthened and how much more it will cost. For this it is necessary to carry out preliminary research," Vainshtok said.
The Transneft president confirmed that construction would begin Apr. 28.
Transneft Vice-Pres. Sergey Grigoryev said: "Transneft's reaction is extremely positive, as this finally means a line has been drawn under the issue. Moreover, this line has been drawn by the president, so there will be no further talk of moving it closer or further away and so on. So, now we have an order that we will carry out."
Contact Eric Watkins at [email protected].